Tall and thin with legs for days, style icon Candy Darling knew how to entertain. She was a fragile beauty who led a life of parties, men, and disappointments, but the one constant in her life was style. Even on her deathbed, Darling stayed true to who she was, a Hollywood glamour puss.
Born in Long Island, Darling spent her childhood idolizing Old Hollywood. She was inspired by the platinum-blonde hair and glamour of the 1940s and 1950s, which echoed her want to be a famous actress.
As she grew into adulthood, Darling felt more comfortable as a woman. In the evenings she would leave her home in Long Island for the excitement of Manhattan. There she could change her identity, socializing in the city’s gay scene dressed to the nines. This was in 1950s New York, a time that was extremely dangerous for those challenging gender norms.
Darling’s acting aspirations took off when she met Andy Warhol. Attracted to her outgoing personality and beauty, Warhol saw her potential as a star. While at The Factory, Darling starred in “Flesh” and “Women in Revolt.” Darling’s role in “Women in Revolt” is noted as a true representation of what she wanted to be: a fabulous and beautiful woman.
With long platinum hair and kohl-rimmed eyes, Darling’s personal aesthetic was a combination of Hollywood nostalgia with on-trend fashions. Her style was a combination of reference and modern that is characteristic of the refined, bohemian style popular in the 1970s. She wore headscarves with long gowns and knew how to balance her long frame. She didn’t over-embellish, rather concentrated on silhouette and fabrication.
As her time at the Factory ended, she got the chance to star in the Tennessee Williams play, “Small Craft Warnings” in 1972. With her vulnerable personality and her soft voice, Darling was the ultimate Williams heroine.
At the young age of 29, Darling died of lymphoma. Her funeral was a star-studded event with Gloria Swanson saluting the coffin. The famous photo series “Candy Darling on her Deathbed” by Peter Hujar was taken while she was in the hospital, posing in full hair and makeup.
In a time that limited free expressions of the LGBTQIA community, she was both brave and brilliant. As Darling once said, “There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth …You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.”